My Melanoma Story

It is officially Spring and people are outside in the sun. We are a nation that LOVES the sun. We all want to go where the sun is shining. The bad thing is… we are also a nation that thinks “Tan” is beautiful. I believed that being tan was important when I was young…. that was until I got Malignant Melanoma myself.

At the age of 21, I had just celebrated my 1 year wedding anniversary and I was 7 months pregnant. I had a funny little mole that was small but it changed color and so I went to the Dermatologist and had him check it out. Sure enough, I had Stage 1 Melanoma. Being 7 months pregnant, I was terrified. Melanoma is a scary kind of cancer. If you don’t catch it early your chances of survival of more than 5 years is 10 percent. I had surgery the next day and the doctors got it out.

A few months later, after I had my daughter, it returned. I have read stories of Melanoma returning and turning out bad the second time around. I also had a little girl now that needed me. I had surgery the next day. I can’t tell you how it feels waiting for the phone call to tell you that you are clear or if you have to go back for more. It is the worst experience I have ever had. Luckily on January 16th, 2008, I got the call saying that it was all the way gone. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be here and how blessed I am to have caught it so early.

My Grandmother died at a young age from Melanoma leaving my Mother when she was only 15 years old. So not only am I writing this for myself but also for my Grandmother. And maybe I could help educate someone else.

I have done a lot of research and worked with the Huntsman Cancer Institute in SLC, UT so I thought I would share with you some interesting facts.

1. If you get a sunburn before the age of 18 you are twice as likely to get Melanoma.
2. SUNSCREEN!!! Even driving in your car can get you a sunburn (especially on your hands)
3. White shirts in the summer do not protect you. Wear sunscreen even on the areas where your shirt covers.
4. Yes- you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day
5. If you don’t wear sunscreen yourself… please put it on your children!
6. Tanning in a tanning bed is one of the worst things you can do to your skin. It is even worse than the sun.

 Being “Tan” might be beautiful… . but to me living to see my kids and grandkids grow up is so much more important. My husband loves me for the white glow-in-the-dark girl that I am. And I’m proud to say that I am VERY WHITE! (And so are my children!)

If you would like to know more about Melanoma check out the video: Dear 16 Year Old Me. It is very educational – and I just plain love it.

Sincerely,
Kristen – The Second Sister in this crazy group of all girls!

1 week Post 2nd Surgery… Sorry I know it isn’t very pretty.

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44 Responses to “My Melanoma Story”

    • There should be no question in your mind. If tan is so important to you, use the spray on or rub on tan. Don't mess with the chance you might get it. I watched my husband have parts cut from his ear and plastic surgery done. The procedure they used once they found out it was melanoma was to cut, put it under the scope and cut again as necessary. Then he had to have plastic surgery the next day to replace what was removed. Not a pleasant thing.
  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! My Mom passed away from Melanoma about 4 1/2 years ago. It was very traumatizing for more and has forever changed the way I view the sun. She wasn't supposed to live to see Reece (my first baby) but she made it all the way to his first birthday which was such an amazing blessing. My Mom was my best friend and my rock in more ways than one and I miss her terribly. Thank you so much for talking about this important issue.
  2. Thanks for sharing your story! In the newest issue of Glamour there's an article about sun exposure and the danger of it. I use self tanner to achieve the tan look (no tanning beds for me!) but it had an interesting point that even though people use self tanner, it's usually to go outside and sunbathe without looking pasty. After reading that, I have to admit that I am guilty! Since then, I wear suncreen every day and no longer go "lay out". Getting skin cancer is one of my biggest fears so hearing stories from others definitely keeps me motivated to keep using sunscreen and embracing my pale skin!

    Clarissa
  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I think it is SO important to wear sunscreen and protect yourself and some girls want "beauty" over their health. I actually didn't know that tanning beds could cause melanoma (I never use them but my sister does), so thank you for sharing that. I think this is a really important issue that people don't pay enough attention to. Thank you and I am so glad you're now cancer-free!
  4. I have had three dyplastic nevi removed in the past two years. I now go to the dermatologist 2 -3 times a year to get checked. I'm actually going tomorrow. I am covered in freckles and moles, so I'm always worried that one will change. Thank you for posting this. Most people don't understand how devastating one little spot on your skin can be. I can't believe I ever worried about being tan.
  5. I appreciate this post. Although, I haven't had the same experience, I have always been very pale, and always tried so hard to be tan as a teenager. I'm scared to know the true damage I did then. I embrace my whiteness now. (A friend in school used to tell me I had a nice moon tan.) I don't understand why tan became a sign of beauty. And I hate that teenage girls still do all sorts of stuff to be tan and just don't get it.
  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so happy to hear that you had a positive outcome from your cancer ordeal, others are not quite so lucky. I have SUPER pale skin myself (I had a friend tell me I'm one shade darker than albino LOL) and I'm always super careful since not only do I burn easily, but I'm afraid of skin cancer. Thanks for reminding everyone that it could happen to them & the tips to prevent it.
  7. Wow, I am so happy you are healthy and sharing your story. It is way more cool to be ghostly & healthy! Sharing everywhere!
  8. Please be afraid of Melanoma and other skin cancers. Over the past 10 years I have had numerous displastic nevi' and squamus cell carcinomas removed. Just last summer I had my first Melanoma 'insitu' removed through surgery and just 3 weeks ago had a second Melanoma insitu removed from my shoulder. Insitu means early stage so that was my saving grace. I will tell you i go to have my skin checked every three months since the melanomas arrived. I also was told by my dermatologist that Melanoma is not always from the sun. ABCD is the acronym. A= Assymetry, one side not the same as the other B= Border Irregularity, edges not even, jagged C= Color, uneven, black, brown D= Diameter larger than a pencil head (6mm in diameter) If any of these signs are present you dhould get youtrself to a dermatologist! Thanks for reading! It really hits home when you have 2 melanomas within a years time.
  9. Thank you for sharing! I don't worship the sun but I have very fair skin and have always felt that being a tiny bit tan looked good. I am not as addicted to tanning beds as some people, but I go at least once a month lately and just this week, I have seen so many things about skin cancer and have felt like it's a warning to me. Thank you for sharing your story, it was one more thing to add to my list of reasons to just top using my tanning pass.
  10. Thank you for sharing your story Kristen. A great motivation to keep our priorities straight, and take care of our health. Posting this on our Take Six FB page! Thank you!
  11. Thank you very much for sharing your private story with us; it really hit close to home. I was diagnosed with dysplastic nevi syndrome when I was just a teenager, and have had over 50 moles excised since then. Although several biopsies have some back with abnormal cells, I have never been diagnosed with cancer. It is SO important that people are educated about the importance of sunscreen and taking care of our skin....every bit of education helps and you are certainly doing your part. :)
  12. I greatly appreciate you sharing your story. I love to tan. I love the sun. We all think it won't happen to us but my Grandpa had numerous spots of cancer burned off of his balled head when he was in his 80's. I have 4 children and if I were smart I would be a better example to them and take care of myself.
  13. I greatly appreciate you sharing your story. I love to tan. I love the sun. We all think it won't happen to us but my Grandpa had numerous spots of cancer burned off of his balled head when he was in his 80's. I have 4 children and if I were smart I would be a better example to them and take care of myself.
  14. I was diagnosed with melanoma on my right eyelid when I was 32. I was on vacation when I received the phone call; it was a month after the biopsy so I knew it was bad. When I was told that if the melanoma was a certain size, it could have spread to my lymph nodes, I was petrified. The surgery was bad enough...waiting to hear whether or not the doctors had clear margins was even worse. Thank God the margins were clear and I've been melanoma-free for almost three years. Thank you for sharing your story.
  15. Thanks for sharing. It's such an important story! Like all of you, I'm afraid of the damage I did when I was a teenager (laying on the roof covered in baby oil to get a tan). Terrifies me to think about it! I slather my boys religiously, and see a dermatologist once a year just to be sure :)
  16. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing! Each day is a struggle for me coping with Melanoma, I am 32 years old and while pregnant this past summer I watched a mole of mine change and grow. I was diagnosed with stage 1 Melanoma, which I had removed from my arm resulting in a 5 inch scar...I am nervous each day for not having my lymph node removed but they said there was only a 5-10% chance that it ever spread because of how thin the Melanoma was. I now get checked every 3 months and had a second mole removed which came back negative! YAY! 2 days later I had a spot show up on my chest which looks like a basal cell...I am having it removed and tested on Wednesday. Each day I am sooo thankful to be alive, bu scared too. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!
  17. I am so glad that you shared this information. I too was 21 when my first melanoma was diagnosed. It was also stage 1. From that point on I was faithful about my 6 month check ups with the dermatologist. 10 years later he found another spot that ended up being melanoma but this time stage 2. As you know, early detection is key. I never miss a check up. Blessings to you and keep spreading the word about the dangers of tanning beds and the sun. I agree with you. I would much rather be fair skinned and be here for my children and grandchildren.
  18. Thank you for sharing your story and such an important subject! As a fair skinned,light eyed, red head living in the deep south...I realize how important sunscreen is! My brother is a melanoma surviver as well. When I go to the pool and get funny looks because I slather my dark haired, dark eyed kiddos up every 30-45 minutes...I think of him! I am lucky that my kids have not been burned yet {they are 12 and 9}and I hope they see the importance of protecting their skin. Yes, I use it everyday, because I am that person who can burn driving in a car!! I am so happy to hear that you found it early!!
  19. I appreciate your sharing and getting the message out! I had skin cancer removed at 27, from too many Lake Havasu adventures without refreshing the sunscreen! Mine wasn't melanoma, but was skin cancer, still scary and helped me to change my habits. I could still stand to be more vigilant, so thanks for the reminder!
  20. My grandfather died a slow a painful death due to Melanoma skin cancer. He battled it for years. Just when we thought it was clear...it would return. Since then I have been so very careful in the sun. I probably have the whitest kids in town. But I couldn't bare to see anyone else I love suffer as my Grandfather did. Thank you for sharing, and getting the message out again. It can't be repeated enough.
  21. Thank you for posting this. I sparkle in the sunlight and am okay with it. I carry the sunblock everywhere and put it on me and my kids all the time. Some people make fun of me but I am okay with it. I don't mind it. I have been burned before but not in a long time. I get a tan every summer by using a bottle of self tanner. My mother in law has a pool and never puts on sunblock on when she goes out in it. I am always so worried she won't put it on my kids. I make a point to tell all about skin cancer everytime she says she gets a burn. I also make her promise that she will put sunblock on my kids, and if they end up burned I will not be a happy camper. Thanks for the reminder of those dark skined people out there that it still can get you no matter what and put the sunblock on.
  22. Wow, talk about perfect timing! I'm getting married in a few months and the #1 thing that makes me feel "pretty" is a good tan. I've been doing the spray tan for years now but it doesn't last as long, doesn't look at good, etc., but I know how bad tanning beds are for me so I've steered clear of them. Just last night I thought about returning to the tanning bed just for a few months before the wedding but how silly! Melanoma doesn't take many exposures to happen and I'd regret the decision to have a good tan in place of good health and a long future. Thank you so much for your post! It was exactly what I needed to read AND SEE (the picture really helped me realize just how serious of a surgery it was). Bless you 6 sisters all of you are awesome! -new subscriber as of TODAY :)
  23. Thank you for posting your story about your battle with Melanoma. My father was diagnosed with stage four Melanoma on my 30th birthday. He was a man with fair skin who played outside as a kid with no sunscreen on. Back then and now, no one pays attention to how bad the sun is for your skin. His melanoma was way to advanced and had already spread thru his body to other organs. Sadly, my father lost his battle two years later after trying numerous experimental medicines, operations on his brain and fought as hard as he could. It is so sad to see young girls tanning in booths or sitting out in the sun all day with no protection. They think it is no big deal when they get sunburned. It is so irresponsible and frustrating, especially after what my family had to go thru. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue.
  24. Thanks for sharing your story! My father passed away from melanoma and I go for skin checks every 3 months. In the past year I have had 4 spots removed and had to have one of them re-done to ensure clear margins. This hits very close to home for me and is such a good message. I plan on posting on my blog about this issue and awareness- thanks for the inspiration!
  25. So glad you found it and they got it removed early enough. Cancer scares me of all kinds, and skin cancer is really all around us like you said! I pray yours doesn't ever come back! And I am saying a prayer for all the other people in the world that they become knowledgable and try and prevent it from happening as much as they can.
  26. My dad died of melanoma. His first bout with cancer happened when he was 6 months (that's right, 6 months). I am fair skinned like he is and unfortunately I don't use sunscreen the way I should, but I no longer try to tan like I did in my teens and early 20's.
  27. Thank you for sharing your experience! I'm sure that you have helped others by getting the word out of the dangers of sun exposure. I had a close friend who had melanoma removed a few years ago, and after that, I started a company of sun protective swimwsuits for women. It's called Panga Swimwear (www.pangaswimwear.com). Keep up the great job getting the word out to women everywhere!

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